The Onset of a Novel Environmental Offset: A case study for diverse pollutant scheme in Australia.
Abstract:Environmental offset schemes employ a crediting system to mitigate the impacts of pollutants. In this talk, we present a novel trade-off concept comparing diverse groups of pollutants: environmental flows, micropollutants (heavy metals, pesticides, estrogen compounds) and nutrients in a test watershed (Jacksons Creek), in the vicinity of Melbourne. A reservoir in the upper watershed, and a wastewater treatment plant (WTP) are the main sources of flow into Jacksons Creek. The current land use is a mix of agriculture, and rural, though rapid urbanization is anticipated with a 40% increase in the population by 2040. The creek is impacted by: 1) low flow, especially during dry periods (contribution from the reservoir drops dramatically), 2) nutrient enrichment (WTP and agricultural runoff), and 3) micropollutants-heavy metals (urban runoff), estrogenic compounds (WTP), and pesticides (agricultural runoff).
In this offset framework, we evaluated current and future scenarios to identify the main stressor in Jacksons Creek. We collected monitoring data at 15 sites for separate 3 events. Then we developed a watershed model to assess sources of pollutant loads to the creek, using two different tools, Model for Urban Stormwater Improvement Conceptualisation (MUSIC) for the preliminary flow and water quality modeling, and eWater Source for integrated water resource management (IWRM), and a decision support system for stakeholders. Scenario analysis includes urbanization and population growth, and anticipated discharges from WTP and the reservoir.
Measured nutrient concentrations were high for all sampling events. Micropollutants were detected at a concentration higher than the trigger value at several locations. Preliminary analysis shows that low flow is one of the major stressors in the creek causing elevated micropollutant and nutrient concentrations (non-point), and that discharge from the WTP is essential to maintain the minimum environmental flows, though nutrient enrichment downstream could occur. This study demonstrates an innovative case for evaluating net environmental benefits, and might hold important lessons for the design of offset schemes in comparable environments elsewhere.